This story about the best film schools in the U.S. first appeared in the College Issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Before diving into this list — TheWrap’s seventh annual film school rankings — keep one critical caveat in mind: The dream campus for one student can turn out to be an academic nightmare for another. It’s all subjective and to some degree a barrel full of apples and oranges. After all, the best schools for learning how to direct aren’t necessarily the best for learning how to write or produce (or, for that matter, make TikTok videos). Just because a college or university has a high number on these pages doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right place for you.
That said, there is something of a science to how we put together these rankings. For starters, TheWrap reached out to every school listed and collected data points on everything from class size to student body diversity to scholarships to networking opportunities, along with updates since last year’s rankings on new facilities, new faculty and new programs. Then we reached out to a number of former and current film school deans and other experts for their unvarnished, off-the-record input on which schools they thought were performing above or below expectations. Finally, we sifted through all that information, added a few other criteria — like the alumni each school generates — and crunched the numbers until we ultimately arrived at the following rankings. That “we,” by the way, includes Executive Editor, Awards Steve Pond, Deputy Magazine Editor Steve Root and Contributing Editor Benjamin Svetkey, among others. (Svetkey, as a part-time professor at Chapman University, recused himself from the ranking process.)
So how did it play out? AFI climbed back to No. 1, Ringling College of Art and Design swung into the Top 20 and… well, read on and discover the rest.
1. American Film Institute / Los Angeles, CA
There’s no such thing as a perfect film school, but AFI comes close. Nestled on a picturesque eight-acre campus overlooking L.A., it even looks like a Hollywood-fantasy college (although, technically, AFI is a conservatory, not a college). Its approach to teaching emphasizes hands-on learning and the forging of creative partnerships that last long after graduation. (Take, for instance, the team that put together Watcher, which had the biggest opening weekend for any IFC film last year; it was directed by Chloe Okuno, lensed by Benjamin Nielsen and edited by Michael Block — all class of 2014.) Although in recent years the school has been something of a revolving door for deans, it seems to have settled down under Susan Ruskin, the former University of North Carolina chair who came aboard in 2019. It’s also made major strides in equity and diversity: 60% of this year’s class is female and there are several programs aimed at further cracking Hollywood’s glass ceiling, including AFI’s Young Women in Film program, a nine-week workshop for female high school students from underrepresented backgrounds. Alumni include Darren Aronofsky, David Lynch, Janusz Kaminski, Terrence Malick, Patty Jenkins and Sian Heder (director of 2022’s Oscar-winning “CODA”).
2. University of Southern California / Los Angeles, CA
All one has to do to grasp the power and history of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts is to read the name plates on the buildings: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sumner Redstone, Robert Zemeckis, Louis B. Mayer. Even Hugh Hefner gets a hall. (No grotto, though.) More importantly, the school has thousands of active alumni fanned out in high places all over Hollywood — from studio c-suites to writers’ rooms — who can help grads network their way into an actual job. It also has a faculty, staff and advisory board that’s second to none (now including Universal chair Donna Langley on USC’s Board of Councilors). Last year, USC received a $14 million donation from game executive John Riccitiello to expand its games program, and it’s also partnering with Sony on developing virtual production facilities and expanding its podcasting curriculum. The downside: Some critics say it’s a bit impersonal, more like a factory than a school. Alumni: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Jay Roach, Susan Downey, Tim Story and George Lucas, among many others.
3. New York University / New York, NY
One of the biggest selling points of NYU is its campus — also known as New York City. But the school is working hard to maintain its place as the preeminent east coast film program, launching initiatives like the new Martin Scorsese Institute of Global Cinematic Arts, an academic and production center that includes a state-of-the-art virtual production hub. Thanks to a gift from George Lucas and spouse Mellody Hobson, there’s a slew of new scholarships. But the press hasn’t been all good: The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece knocking the school for leaving some graduate students drowning in debt — at nearly $50K a year for a three-year program, it’s not hard to see how that can happen (though NYU claims that 95 percent of this year’s class is receiving financial aid). Alumni include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, M. Night Shyamalan, Lady Gaga and, of course, the guy whose name is on that Global Cinematic Arts institute.
4. Chapman University / Orange, CA
Chapman has been climbing the rankings in recent years, thanks in part to its emphasis on actually getting students jobs once they graduate. This year, it launched a new Careers Center under the leadership of former CAA agent Joe Rosenberg and producer Susan Landau Finch, created an 8,000-name alumni database and added regular monthly networking events. They’ve also sponsored workshops on subjects like “How to Build a Franchise, Fast and Furiously” (taught by producer Neal Moritz) and continue to host a top-notch Master Class series. (Recent speakers included Ted Sarandos and Michelle Yeoh.) Its alumni haven’t climbed quite as high as the three schools ahead of it on this list, though the Duffer brothers, class of 2007, brought Netflix its biggest hit with “Stranger Things,” and Parker Finn directed the horror hit “Smile,” which crossed $100 million in two weeks. The place has a reputation for making students happy, and it’s also becoming increasingly diverse; Chapman recently hired 25 full and part-time professors, the vast majority being people of color.
5. California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) / Santa Clarita, CA
Look behind the scenes of pretty much any recent animated feature and you’re likely to find a CalArts alum in a major role: Mark Andrews (“Brave”), Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”), Chris Buck (“Frozen”), Pete Docter (“Up”), Genndy Tartakovsky (“Dexter’s Laboratory”), Lauren Faust (“My Little Pony”)… The list goes on and on. To keep pace with the industry, the school — founded in 1961, with a little help from Walt Disney — is renovating its animation space and upgrading virtually all of its 25,000 square feet of facilities. Look for the updated space to open next year. The film program is also partnering with CalArts’ Patty Disney Center for Life & Work on a mentorship program for under-represented students that includes hands-on opportunities, internships and mentorships.
6. Columbia University / New York, NY
It’s one of the only film schools on this list where you can get an Ivy League diploma. But it comes at a price: A four-year MFA here (the fourth year is optional) will set you back about $150K in tuition, which is why the Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece about Columbia headlined “‘Financially Hobbled for Life’: The Elite Master’s Degrees That Don’t Pay Off”). The school also took some hits this year from U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings, which downgraded Columbia from the No. 2 university (after Harvard) to No. 18, following reports that Columbia provided misleading data for the survey. Still, there’s no question it remains one of the top film schools in the nation, with a heavy emphasis on the narrative arts, including a brand-new MFA concentration in Writing for Film and Television. (Applications just opened for fall 2023.) Alumni include Jennifer Lee, Simon Kinberg, Olivia Newman and Ashley Lyle.
7. Emerson College / Boston, MA
Boston has some advantages — it’s still a center of intellectual activity in the U.S. — even if it’s not exactly a hub of the film or television industry. Still, Emerson manages to punch above its weight, with an alumni list that runs from Norman Lear in the ’40s to Henry Winkler and Jay Leno in the ’60s and ’70s to Warner Film Group CEO Pamela Abdy and “Crazy Rich Asians” writer Adele Lim in the ’90s. Its robust film and video programs now also include games and AR/VR instruction as well as new offerings in anti-racist filmmaking and accessible cinema. Plus, there’s its Pitchfest competition (where students have 90 seconds to pitch a project to alumni) and the student-run EVVY awards to honor student work. The school went fully bicoastal in 2014, with the opening of its Los Angeles campus, and went global in 2019 with a three-year international BFA (offered jointly with the Paris College of Art) that includes study in Boston, Paris and the college-owned Kasteel Well castle in the Netherlands.
8. University of California, Los Angeles / Los Angeles, CA
UCLA touts the benefits of a “small and intimate” program (just 581 students) embedded in a large university (32,000 undergraduates) that just happens to be the No. 1 ranked public university in the country by U.S. News. Alumni include Dustin Lance Black, Jack Black, Tim Robbins (who is also a visiting professor) and our cover subject, Gina Prince-Bythewood, whose “The Woman King” has been a hit this fall, grossing $54M in its first month. But it still doesn’t have a permanent dean, struggles with infighting among departments and received a scathing report card two years ago from UCLA’s own Academic Senate, which found that student criticism of the program “was wide-ranging and vocal.”
9. Loyola Marymount University / Los Angeles, CA
After Peggy Rajski’s turbulent three-year-term as dean — which ended in 2021 after the faculty revolted against her Hollywood producer-style abrasive behavior towards the staff — LMU seems to have righted itself. Joanne Moore, a former chair at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, is now leading the film department at this smallish Jesuit school, where the student/teacher ratio clocks in at 12:1. Moore, the school’s first African American dean, is inheriting a student body that’s already pretty diverse; 54.5% of this year’s class is non-white.
10. University of North Carolina School of the Arts / Winston-Salem, North Carolina
The state school — one of 17 campuses in the UNC system but the only arts conservatory — costs half of private film schools’ tuition (undergrad in-state: $6,497; out-of-state: $23,731). But there’s nothing cut-rate about the education students receive here. The school boasts impressive soundstages (a full city street and a pool for water scenes) and gives every graduating class an opportunity to go to L.A. and New York to meet with industry professionals. Still, brain drain has been a problem: It recently lost three of its top educators, with Susan Ruskin going to AFI, Joanne Moore to LMU and Kevin Jones to Chapman.
11. Wesleyan University / Middletown, CT
She retired in 2020, but Professor Jeanine Basinger — who all but invented cinema studies at this small liberal arts campus in the 1960s — is still the heart and soul of the program. Indeed, her influence looms so large at Wesleyan, its film school was recently renamed the Jeanine Basinger Center for Film Studies. Her approach was more aesthetical and philosophical—“What makes film entertaining, what makes it work?” recalls writer and alum Sam Wasson of the questions explored in her classes—but that doesn’t mean students don’t also receive a practical education. There’s a soundstage, a shooting house and three state-of-the-art theaters in which to practice your craft. Other alums include producer-writer Akiva Goldsman (“Star Trek”), Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”) and Netflix’s director of original series, Danielle Woodrow.
12. University of Texas at Austin / Austin, TX
UT-Austin is one of the few film schools to offer a TV writers’ room workshop class, where students create an entire season of a series that they then shop around to all the major networks. Tuition costs are also a big plus: $11K for in-state students and $39K for out-of-state (although all MFA students, no matter where they’re from, qualify for in-state rates). The student body is relatively diverse — about a third of the current undergraduate class identify as Latino — but Texas has its drawbacks too. Female applicants may want to think twice about living in a state with Gilead-style abortion laws. (There’s a $10K bounty on anyone who aids or abets the termination of a pregnancy.)
13. Stanford University / Palo Alto, CA
This intensive two-year program, which is uniquely housed in the Department of Art and Art History, only admits six to eight students a year but offers everyone a fellowship that covers 100 percent of the cost of tuition. The program, which is considered tops for documentary filmmaking, emphasizes collaboration, and all students are expected to take on shooting, editing and producing roles over the course of the two years. Every student is asked to produce four films during their time in the program — three short films the first year and a 15- to 20-minute-long thesis film in the second year. Thesis films have been seen at film festivals, broadcast on PBS and distributed online.
14. ArtCenter College of Design / Pasadena, CA
The college’s promotional materials claim that because all of ArtCenter’s instructors are working professionals, “their war stories are hours old, not years old.” The school just renovated its Ahmanson Auditorium (funded in part with a donation from alum Zach Snyder). In addition, actor-producer Terry Crews allows students to use the state-of-the art LED wall at his virtual production facility Amen & Amen, while a partnership with Epic Games has beefed up its virtual production resources. ArtCenter is also gearing up to introduce a writing track to add to its existing tracks in directing, editing and cinematography. At $48K for undergrads and $51K for grads, tuition is ever-so-slightly more affordable than most private film schools.
15. Savannah College of Art and Design / Savannah, GA
The school has several campuses — one in Atlanta, another in Lacoste, France, and a third that’s entirely virtual — but the bulk of its 16,400 students can be found at the Savannah Film Studios in Savannah, which is currently undergoing a massive upgrade. Along with the newly opened XR stage, an 11-acre expansion, including Hollywood-style backlots, is scheduled to be unveiled in 2023. The Atlanta campus, meanwhile, houses a dedicated screenwriting center while the campus in southern France allows students to film in medieval structures and historic limestone quarries. The French campus also has the advantage of not being in Georgia, where reproductive rights are now nearly as medieval as those quarries.
16. Florida State University / Tallahassee, FL
Finding film school a bit nerve-wracking? Don’t sweat it. FSU has a mental health specialist hosting workshops to help “better prepare filmmaking artists to deal with stress [and] collaborative conflicts, and to develop better self-care and work-life balances.” On the academic side, the school is starting an MFA track in immersive virtual production. Tuition is bargain-basement — $6.5K in-state and $21.6K out-of-state — but there’s a catch. Like Texas and Georgia, Florida has recently enacted draconian anti-abortion laws that might have some students thinking twice about spending time there. Prominent alumni include Barry Jenkins (and a lot of the classmates who helped him make “Moonlight” and “The Underground Railroad”), Melissa Carter and Matt Lopez.
17. California State University, Northridge / Northridge, CA
Located about 25 miles from Hollywood, CSUN offers value (in-state tuition is just $7K for undergrads, $8.4K for grads) and robust diversity (it’s majority Latino) in a competitive program. New additions include a Virtual Production track and an upcoming master’s degree in Entertainment Media Management. The school’s size (34,000 students, second largest in the Cal State system) might put off some prospective students, but it gets bonus points for helping NASA find E.T.: The school was recently tapped by the space agency to make a documentary about the search for extraterrestrial life.
18. Columbia College Chicago / Chicago, IL
If 35,000 square feet of production space isn’t enough for you, this school also offers a semester in L.A. program, where you can study at Sunset Las Palmas Studios — the very soundstages on which “I Love Lucy” was once taped. Prominent alum includes multihyphenate Lena Waithe, Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski and “Atlanta” cinematographer Christian Sprenger, who remembers his time in Chicago mostly for the friends he made. “One of the most important and valuable takeaways from the program was discovering how unbelievably important it is to make things with the people you love,” he said. “It can take many years of working in the industry to discover that and it was so valuable to understand that before I even began my professional career.”
19. Ithaca College / Ithaca, NY
In addition to former Disney CEO Bob Iger (magna cum laude ‘73), the mid-size school (5,600 undergrads) in upstate New York boasts an eclectic alumni mix that includes Liz Tigelaar (“Little Fires Everywhere”), David Boreanaz (“Bones”), Peter Dougherty (who helped create the iconic “Yo’ MTV Raps”) and Gavin MacLeod (who played Captain Stubing on “The Love Boat”). This year, the program got a new dean, Amy Falkner, who comes to the school after a distinguished career at Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School.
20. Ringling College of Art and Design / Sarasota, FL
Ringling — yes, the founding donor, back in 1931, was one of the brothers behind the famous circus — has been on the leading edge of teaching computer animation since the 1990s. It added a film program in 2008, which admits about 35-45 students a year to study one of two tracks (narrative storytelling or branded entertainment) in its “production intensive” program. The school’s five soundstages, 15 editing suites and facilities attract so many working professionals — like Werner Herzog, Kevin Smith and Beau Bridges — that many students are hired and get professional credits well before graduation.
21. Boston University / Boston, MA
The film school keeps getting bigger and bigger — it now has about 600 undergrad film and TV majors — so they keep hiring more and more teachers. Like, for instance, Margaret Wallace, who was once named one of the 10 most powerful women in video games. Despite the program’s size, it keeps most screenwriting classes to fewer than 12 students and production classes to fewer than 16. A new joint venture with the School of Theater will create a sitcom pilot that will be shot in front of a live studio audience.
22. Northwestern University / Evanston, IL
Strictly speaking, this isn’t really a film school or even a conservatory. Students who major in Radio, Television, Video and Film get degrees in communications. Northwestern sells its program as offering all the practical education of more specialized schools along with all the benefits of getting a well-rounded liberal arts education. Recent additions to the program include the Pritzker Pucker Studio Lab for the Promotion of Mental Health via the Cinematic Arts (funded with a $1M donation) which sponsors events, speakers and screenings to promote “honest portrayals of a misunderstood topic.” Undergrad tuition is a hefty $62K, but the MFA program is fully funded, meaning students get a tuition waiver and stipend.
23. Rhode Island School of Design / Providence, RI
It has been a year of transition for the east coast art school famous as the birthplace of the Talking Heads (though more relevant film alumni include Gus Van Sant, Seth MacFarlane and Jemima Kirke). For starters, it welcomed a new president, Crystal Williams, an award-winning poet who was the associate provost at Boston University, and a new head of the Film, Animation and Video department, animator Amy Kravitz. New classes include Site Gags and Hidden Monsters, which explores the use of humor in animation and its relationship to racism, minstrelsy and problematic issues of representation. The highly selective school — it admits only about 20 percent of applicants — has a student/teacher ratio of just 9:1.
24. Syracuse University / Syracuse, NY
Syracuse offers both BFA and MFA degrees in film through its College of Visual and Performing Arts and BS and MA degrees in television, radio and film through its S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. But students aren’t stuck in upstate New York. The university offers semester-long study programs in L.A., Prague, Bologna and suburban New York, where a partnership with Great Point Media offers internships at Lionsgate Studios in Yonkers.
25. University of Arizona / Tucson, AZ
This year the School for Theatre, Film and Television (TFTV) welcomed several new faculty, including director Peter Lauer (“Emily in Paris”), editor Katy Skjerping (“The Good Fight”) and writer Brian Levant (“Happy Days”), the last of whom will running a TV boot camp class in which students will create an original comedy pilot from scratch. TFTV works closely with Arizona’s nationally recognized acting program, giving its film students lots of opportunities to collaborate across program lines. Prominent alums include Netflix exec Scott Stuber, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and “Rutherford Falls” showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas.
26. University of Miami / Miami, FL
Miami’s Cinematic Arts program, which offers undergraduate degrees and an MFA, just launched an interdisciplinary Documentary MFA that combines a journalistic framework with a production education. There’s also an outreach program that pairs teams of students with nonprofit groups in Central America to create short nonfiction films. Alumni making news lately include producer Barry Waldman (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) and director David Nutter (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”).
27. Los Angeles Film School / Los Angeles, CA
In response to an exponential growth in online learning over the last few years — 72% of the school’s 4,500 students are enrolled in an online program — LAFS has been increasing its virtual opportunities for students, adding online clubs to parallel the on-campus IRL ones, and is starting a student Discord community. Tuition varies by program, but a full four-year degree runs about $15K-$25K per year.
28. Pratt Institute / Brooklyn, NY
With its 26-acre Brooklyn campus, Pratt is the only art and design school in NYC with a dedicated physical campus that includes three soundstages, editing suites and a 90-seat 4K screening room (plus a sculpture park considered one of the 10 best campus art collections in the U.S.). This past year, Pratt alums with high-profile projects included producers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“WeCrashed”) and Liz Hannah (“The Dropout”) while senior Mackie Mallison’s short “It Smells Like Springtime” was an official selection of the 2022 New York Film Festival.
29. San Francisco State University / San Francisco, CA
Though SFSU’s roots are in experimental filmmaking influenced by the city’s counterculture tradition, most of its current students are more interested in scripted entertainment, so the school has beefed up its offerings in those areas, adding a video game minor. Like other California state schools, SFSU is a bargain ($7.5K in state, $18.8K out for undergrads) and very diverse (more than 80% identify as non-white or mixed race).
30. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey / New Brunswick, NJ
Rutgers this year introduced an interdisciplinary program to cultivate collaboration between film, theater, music and dance centered on a new first-year course called Interplay. Meanwhile, Rutgers Documentary Film Lab, which recently won nearly $1 million in new grants, has sent some two dozen students to shoot films in such far-flung locales as Antarctica and Indonesia.
31. School of Visual Arts / New York, NY
This year SVA redesigned its BFA in film program to give students more choice and to ensure they graduate with marketable skills. The animation program is considered very strong, especially in 2D. A collaboration with the Museum of the Moving Images showcases student films alongside professional works at its First Look Festival. SVA also brags that it has more film equipment per capita than any other east coast school.
32. University of California, Santa Barbara / Santa Barbara, CA
UCSB has long worked to move beyond its party reputation (not easy, since it is literally right on the beach), but in truth it has a distinguished film program celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023. The school offers courses in film history and theory; media practices around the world; fiction and nonfiction filmmaking; video games, interactive and web-based digital media production; screenwriting; and archival and curatorial practice. The graduate core focuses on history, theory and critical analysis, but there’s also a non-production PhD track for film scholars. In-state tuition is a manageable $38K, but an eyewatering, Ivy League-esque $69K for out-of-state students.
33. Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY
This Long Island school began in 1935 as a satellite campus of NYU before breaking off as an independent university in 1939. With 201 film majors, Hofstra’s program is one of the larger undergrad programs in the country. The school has recently introduced a BFA in film that mixes practical instruction in production with cores on film history and theory and a Writing for the Screen BFA that is designed to allow graduates to thrive in all manner of writers rooms. Alumni include Anonymous Content CEO Dawn Olmstead, producer Avi Arad and Francis Ford Coppola (who has funded a screenwriting/playwriting scholarship).
34. University of California, Berkeley / Berkeley, CA
The film department — which focuses on teaching students, per the school, “to think historically, theoretically, and analytically about film and media within the broad context of humanistic studies” — has seen a 120% jump in enrollment over the last few years. The program boasts that fully half its majors transferred into Berkeley from a community college and a high number come from underrepresented minorities.
35. University of Pennsylvania / Philadelphia, PA
With the elevation of Karen Redrobe to Director of Cinema and Media Studies and hiring of Professor Shannon Mattern, a pioneer in media infrastructures studies, Penn is looking to build bridges between cinema and media studies as well as the rapidly expanding world of digital humanities. Penn alumni who have made a name in Hollywood include actors Bruce Dern, Elizabeth Banks and Candice Bergen, producers Dick Wolf, Marc Platt, TV writer Meredith Stiehm and Oscar-winning documentarian Morgan Neville. But it all comes at an Ivy League price tag; a year at Penn costs over $85,000.
36. Stony Brook University / Stony Brook, NY
Part of New York’s public university system, the school, located in the heart of Manhattan on Eighth Ave. and 37th St., has doubled the number of grad students since last year, and has been beefing up its faculty, adding three new teachers this year, all working professionals with extensive writing, directing and producing credits. It’s also bringing back Michael Rauch (“Royal Pains,” “Monarch”) to teach its showrunner class. Tuition remains relatively modest, with the school estimating that a three-year MFA (two years in residence) would cost about $35K in-state, $64K out-of-state.
37. DePaul University / Chicago, IL
This year, 347 incoming freshman majored in Film & TV, making it the most popular field of study at this Catholic university. Most students focus on production, but other popular specialties include screenwriting, documentary and editing. The school’s 32,000-square-foot production space is in the same complex where Dick Wolf’s many “Chicago” series and other programs film.
38. Arizona State University / Tempe, AZ
The ASU program has made big strides in recent years. In 2020 it was upgraded to a separate school within the University —T he Sidney Poitier New American Film School — and brought in former Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs as founding director. This fall it moves to a new top-flight facility about seven miles from the main campus in Tempe. It also operates a satellite campus in L.A. and just added an MA in Narrative and Emerging Media, run jointly with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.
39. School of the Art Institute of Chicago / Chicago, IL
SAIC — one of the artiest film schools on this list — prides itself on encouraging students to engage in “experimentation with radical form and content,” which seems fitting for a school that started in 1886 as a student art cooperative. It pitches itself as “the perfect fit for students eager to navigate the space between cinema, installation, mobile device, performance site and community-based projects.”
40. American University / Washington, DC
This film program squeezes everything it can from its D.C. location, partnering with National Geographic for a class on archival storytelling, working with government agencies and NGOs to produce PSAs and landing a grant from the National Science Foundation to build a holographic production studio. The program’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking even received a grant to make a film celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.
41. University of Michigan / Ann Arbor, MI
Michigan approaches film studies as a traditional liberal arts subject rather than a vocational pursuit. But its screenwriting sub-major builds on a legacy that includes alumni Arthur Miller, Lawrence Kasdan, New Line founder Robert Shaye and UTA’s Peter Benedek. Plus, it gets great guest speakers like Alexander Payne and Spike Lee.
42. Full Sail University / Winter Park, FL
ˆThe object at this for-profit institution is speed, with some of the fastest degrees in the discipline: 12 months for a graduate degree and 20 months on campus (plus 29 months online) for undergraduates. Alumni include senior vice president of production operations at HBO & HBO Max Stephen Beres, writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman (“Spiral,” “Saw II”) and Gary Rizzo, who won sound mixing Oscars in 2011 and 2018.
43. University of Colorado at Boulder / Boulder, CO
For the outdoorsy types, this school has the Rocky Mountains literally at its front step and world-class ski resorts like Breckenridge and Vail nearby. But you can learn something while you’re there as well; its Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts offers no fewer than 400 majors. Its most famous — and infamous — alumni are the “South Park” boys, Trey Parker (who won a Student Academy Award while at Boulder) and Matt Stone (who was a math major).
44. New York Film Academy / New York, NY
The name is a bit misleading, since this for-profit is based not just in New York but in Los Angeles and Miami as well, with campuses in Florence and Gold Coast, Australia and satellite locations in Paris, Shanghai, Moscow and Beijing. This year, the school is launching three new degree programs: BFA in Entertainment Media, BFA in Musical Theatre and an online Master of Arts in Entrepreneurial Producing and Innovation.
45. Colorado Film School / Denver, CO
Part of the Colorado Community College system, this film school offers one of the least expensive diplomas on this list: An Associate’s degree costs about $15K in tuition. CFS is in the process of developing a four-year bachelor’s degree to go along with a major facilities upgrade. But cheap doesn’t mean bad: Recent grads include Robert Brogden, a finalist for a student Academy Award, and Emmy nominee Austin Roth.
46. Biola University / La Mirada, CA
The private, nondenominational, evangelical Christian university about 25 miles from Hollywood has seen enrollment in the School of Cinema & Media Arts climb 26% in the last two years. Its School of Cinema & Media Arts is led by Tom Halleen, who left his job as EVP of Programming Strategy at AMC Networks in 2020 to join the university. Biola now has plans to build a $76-million studio facility that will span more than 56,000 square feet.
47. Mount St. Mary’s / Los Angeles, CA
This private Catholic university is for women only at the undergraduate level but admits men to its graduate programs. In addition to its main campus in Brentwood, the film department has a new professional studio facility on Hollywood Blvd. overlooking the historic TCL Chinese Theater. Along with a standard bachelor’s degree in film and media, students can also earn a degree in Film, Media and Social Justice that emphasizes advocacy-based content.
48. University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee / Milwaukee, WI
The Peck School’s Department of Film, Video, Animation and New Genres has more than 600 students in its film major. A state-of-the-art animation studio has just been added to the midwestern campus, where students can get both undergrad and MFA degrees in cinematic arts. UWM alum Sky Hopinka recently won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” fellowship.
49. Johns Hopkins University/MICA / Baltimore, MD
The Baltimore-based program, jointly operated by Johns Hopkins and the Maryland Institute College of Art, prides itself on its small classes (a 10:1 student/faculty ratio) and hands-on practical instruction, combined with a strong emphasis on developing critical thinking and writing skills in students.
50. Pepperdine University / Los Angeles, CA
The location couldn’t be sweeter — on the Malibu bluffs overlooking the ocean — but it’s not technically a film school; it’s a private Christian university that offers a very strong film major. It gets an F in responsiveness, however, since it failed to respond to TheWrap’s request for survey data.